In North America, the word “diversity” is strongly associated with racial diversity. However, that is just one dimension of the human reality. We also differ in gender, language, manners and culture, social roles, sexual orientation, education, skills, income, and countless other domains. Nowadays some advocates have even argued for recognition of neurodiversity, which refers to the range of differences in brain function. For the moment, let’s forget about neurology.
Research shows that differences do make it harder for people to connect and empathize with each other. Navigating differences can be tough, whether in the classroom, the workplace, or our personal relationships—and yet people all over the world do it every day. It’s a prosocial skill, like empathy or forgiveness, that can be developed over a lifetime with intentionality, knowledge, and practice.
Diversity suggests fairness, and good will. Diversity drives cultural, economic, and social vitality and innovation. Indeed, decades of research suggest that intolerance hurts our well-being—and that individuals thrive when they can tolerate and embrace the diversity of the world.
Tolerating and embracing diversity can be tricky. Diversity offers many colors including difference, dissimilarity, otherness, disparity, unlikeness. deviance, and some shades of discord, disunity, incompatibility, inequality, and dissent.
In diverse societies, cultivating our ability to forge relationships across differences can increase our well-being, but the tolerance that is meant to safeguard the best of diversity can be quite fragile.
It is not easy being President-Elect. The Biden transition faces satisfying expectations for a historically diverse Cabinet. The news is full of demands for equal representation after a presidential election in which Asian Americans were difference-makers in Georgia, Latinos boosted Biden in Arizona, and Black voters propelled him to the nomination and ultimate victory.
Latino lawmakers and outside groups, for example, are pushing New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for Health and Human Services secretary — but tapping her over former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who is Indian American, could anger Asian American advocacy groups. You can generate your own inclusion conflicts.
Joe Biden, the President-Elect is given little time to relish his victory. Perhaps prior to his victory, but certainly at the win, Joe hears: “Good luck Joe. Don’t forget the Latin vote from south Florida”: “Say Mr. Vice President, I know Guam is not close, but we voted 100% for you – 100%!”: “Mr. Biden, the Indian nations will not suffer again. You know we know we won’t be last ever again”: “Mr. President, excuse me, Mr. President- Elect it helps to speak Mandarin with the Chinese. San Francisco’s deputy Mayor, Lee Kim knows China like the back of his hand. What about it!”: “Mrs. Harris was a good start, but don’t take the Black vote for granted because of her selection as Vice President.”
Joe has not yet heard the inclusion blasts from the Gays, LGPT’s, and Transexuals.
In diverse societies, cultivating our ability to forge relationships across differences can actually increase our well-being, but the tolerance that is meant to safeguard the best of diversity can be quite fragile. We wish the President-Elect good luck. I fear that we will need it.